By Lauren Child
Published by Harper Collins
ISBN 978 0 00 733406 3
Watch out! There's a new girl in town. Her name is Ruby Redfort, and she really is something special.
Ruby is an ace codebreaker, a no-holds-barred detective, and a secret special agent for an underground organisation that protects us all from danger. Ruby also happens to be a fairly normal 13-year-old. You could walk past her in the street and not give her a second glance. But that is all part of her dual identity. Ruby's job is to take on the most dastardly of villains.
Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes is the first novel in a proposed series of six featuring the extraordinary teenager. She is the latest great character created by Lauren Child, one of the most talented author/illustrators working in youth fiction today. Her Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola books are big hits with a wide range of young readers.
Lauren's latest Clarice Bean book has sold more than half a million copies, and the Charlie and Lola TV series is shown on more than 30 TV channels all over the world.
Look into my Eyes is Child's first book not to feature illustrations - it's definitely for older readers. It is still an entertaining 390-page read that delights the reader at every turn.
The idea of a 13-year-old as a crack undercover agent might be a bit hard to swallow for some. Yet Child is such a clever, witty and persuasive writer that readers are hooked on her character in the space of a few chapters. You can't help warming to the precocious daughter of the Redfort family.
The Redforts live in a small American town where nothing much happens. Ruby is bright, funny, friendly - and sometimes bored.
She loves doing puzzles and cracking codes. At the tender age of seven, Ruby won a junior code-cracking championship. And her decoding skills went from strength to strength. When she was eight, Ruby devised a code that professors at Harvard University took two weeks to crack. People were beginning to take notice of young Miss Redfort.
Now, Ruby is in her early teens and she is still cracking codes. One day, she gets a mysterious phone call setting her a new code-cracking challenge. And then some more calls. Ruby hasn't a clue where they are coming from. Things get even odder when her home is robbed, the housekeeper kidnapped, and a new "house manager" appears out of nowhere.
A secret organisation called Spectrum is moving in on Ruby because they need her to crack a code that none of their agents can manage. Soon Ruby is up against devious plots, very nasty baddies and even more codes.
All highly implausible, of course, but this doesn't matter because Child presents it all in such a fun and imaginative way that readers can't help turning the pages.
Ruby Redfort's first adventure is a thrilling and entertaining read. She has arrived and she is here to stay. Well, for a further five books at least.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com